TELFORD VICE in Canterbury
DANE van Niekerk knew captaining South Africa at the World Cup was a big deal. On Thursday she was given an idea of how big.
An hour after her team had hammered West Indies in a practice match in Leicester, Van Niekerk and her Windies counterpart, Stafanie Taylor, along with Australia’s Meg Lanning and Sana Mir, the Pakistan captain, boarded a helicopter bound for London.
Once there they were whisked to No. 1 Westminster Place, the headquarters of the National Liberal Club, which counts seven British prime ministers among its members.
The grand old Gothic clubhouse, festooned with sad-eyed portraits and centred on a marble spiral staircase of operatic proportions, lives up to all that.
You can hear the harrumphing that would have ricocheted off the walls in 1976, when full membership was opened to women after 94 years.
What Winston Churchill might have said of eight women marching into his club as captains of international cricket teams would make for an interesting parlour game.
It would also be irrelevant, because women’s cricket has long since grown up. Scoffing at it is as wise as Bobby Riggs taunting Billie Jean King.
But this World Cup is different. It’s the first to be fully televised and the prizemoney has been increased tenfold to US$500000.
“When I made my debut it was at a club ground with no-one watching,” Heather Knight, England’s captain, said. “Now we play at county grounds, which are full, and the game is on the telly.”
Some things, though, don’t change.
“You don’t come to compete,” Van Niekerk said. “You come to win a World Cup and that’s our expectation.”
“We’ve got our own culture, we really wanted to get away from that,” she said.
Can’t blame her, can you?